Seeking Medical Help
It is important to seek immediate and follow-up medical attention for sexual assault to determine the presence of physical injury, sexually transmitted diseases, or pregnancy, as well as obtain evidence to assist in criminal prosecution if you choose. Physical evidence should be collected immediately, ideally within the first 24 hours. However, it may be collected up to 72 hours after an assault.
Immediate Emergency Service
The specialized rape examination should be conducted within 72 hours of the assault. There are two service options for this exam: a hospital emergency room or the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) facility.
If you choose to go to a hospital emergency room:
The Emergency Room (ER) is an ideal choice if you are not medically stable, which includes being pregnant. If you are medically stable, the ER staff will send you to the SANE facility. In the ER, a nurse will conduct the majority of the exam, with a doctor conducting the pelvic exam. A SANE-trained nurse from the Crisis Center may be called to conduct the exam along with a Rape Response Advocate to provide emotional support for you. Hospital personnel will call Rape Response (256.765.0025) for you at your request. If you go to the ER, you will get a bill for the services provided. Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission (ACVCC) is a program designed to help cover expenses incurred by those who have been sexually assaulted (and victims of other violent crimes). You may fill out the appropriate ACVCC forms to be reimbursed for this cost.
If you choose to contact the SANE facility:
The SANE facility is an immediate, confidential, no-cost service in the Florence area. To get service from the SANE program, call Rape Response at 256.765.0025, or the 24-hour hotline: 256.767.1100 to inform them that you need to come to the facility, and they will provide you with directions. They are available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. There will be no waiting in a waiting room, and the services are provided by a nurse who has specialized training in the care and treatment of sexual assault survivors. The forensic exam conducted at the SANE facility is paid by ACVCC. A police report is not required for this exam to be conducted.
The process can feel invasive, but it is recommended to evaluate your physical condition, as well as collect evidence that may be used in a criminal prosecution if you choose to report. If you choose not to report, the evidence can be held for a minimum of 30 days to give you time to evaluate what you would like to do.
The UNA Police are available to transport sexual assault victims to the hospital or the SANE facility if a friend or relative is not available. To arrange transportation, call the UNA Police dispatcher and indicate your need for emergency assistance (256.765.4357). If the incident occurred off-campus, the local police department will provide transportation for you.
Why Should I Seek Medical Care?
IN TIMES OF EMOTIONAL STRESS, people tend to minimize their own feelings out of self-protection, or out of consideration for the feelings of people they love. Although you may feel fine physically, your body may be numbed by a state of shock, so it's important to seek medical care as soon as possible. Your need for treatment is, and should be considered, an emergency even if there are no visible signs of physical injury. Taking care of your health at this time is an important step in your healing process. If you choose to have evidence collected, the sooner this is done, the more reliable and potentially useful it will be. It is important to seek medical care in order to:
- be examined and treated for any injuries;
- be tested and treated for exposure to sexually transmitted diseases;
- discuss ways to reduce the risk of pregnancy;
- Collect medical evidence should you decide to report the assault to the police for possible prosecution of the offender.
Where should I go?
In the Florence/Lauderdale County area, Eliza Coffee Memorial (ECM) Hospital is able to examine and treat you after an assault, whether or not you choose to report the assault to the police. The University of North Alabama has access to specially-trained nurses (SANE, or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) to provide evidence collection, which is vital to prosecution.
Before You Arrive at the Hospital
Whether or not you decide to have evidence collected, it is important that you DO NOT:
- change clothes
- shower or bathe
- brush your teeth
- use the bathroom unless absolutely necessary
Taking these precautions before the medical exam allows you to keep your legal options open as long as possible. These activities can destroy vital evidence. Bring a change of clothes with you. If you've changed your clothes since the assault, place the clothes you wore at the time of the attack in a paper bag (not plastic). Bring them with you to the emergency room. Let your nurse or doctor know you have them, and tell them if you have done anything else (washed, etc.) before you arrived. This will assist them in making their report.